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Nissan China chief Jose Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

FILE PHOTO: Jose Munoz, Chairman of Nissan North America, speaks during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

(Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co Ltd's <7201.T> head of China operations Jose Munoz has resigned following reports that the Japanese automaker has broadened its investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn's alleged financial misconduct.


Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the United States by Munoz who led Nissan's North American operations from 2016 to 2018.

He joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its ambitious expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the United States.

In a LinkedIn post https://bit.ly/2RsrNwQ on Friday, Munoz said, "I am proud to have played a role in achieving 74 percent growth in North America, gaining market dominance in Mexico, getting China market share on the growth path, and helping the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance become the highest volume group in the world."

Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years. Since then, the world's largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.

China is Nissan's second-largest market, accounting for roughly one-quarter of its annual global vehicle sales. Last year the company planned to boost sales to make China its biggest market in terms of vehicle sales by 2022.

Munoz, 53, who is also the automaker's Chief Performance Officer, has been with Nissan for 15 years. He was recently placed on a leave of absence due to the ongoing probe.

Munoz, who is widely seen within the industry as close to Ghosn, was a "person of interest" in the probe and it was not clear whether he would be accused of any wrongdoing.

"I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations," Munoz said in the post.

Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan's alliance with France's Renault SA (RENA.PA), has been charged with under-reporting his income. On Friday, he was also charged with aggravated breach of trust, accused of shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen ($17 million) to Nissan.



(Reporting by Mary Ann Alapatt and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)